Sunday, January 24, 2010

Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton

I couldn't decide whether this story is ridiculously silly, or whether it is so clear-eyed about what it means to be an alcoholic that it is incredibly sad.

This is a murder mystery.  There are murders, so many I quit counting.  But the main story involves confirmed bachelor, local constable Hamish Macbeth.

Macbeth cares more for his dog and cat than he would ever care for a woman.  One former girlfriend tells him, "What woman would put up with rivals such as these?" 

Yet, many women seem to crave Macbeth.  His new deputy Josie McSween sets her sights on him.  She tries to entrap him by convincing him he has made her pregnant.  

She is so sad.  She does such unbelievable things, but she manages to get Macbeth within a few inches of the altar.  And all the time, alcohol and drugs power her ridiculous schemes and actions.

The central mystery has to do with the letter-bomb murder of a local beauty queen.  

To keep from being caught, the killer murders several more local residents.  Macbeth and others find bodies spread all over this little Scottish hamlet.  

Josie unearths a major clue, and Macbeth breaks and enters to help solve the crime.  Then there is to be a wedding.

If it weren't for the great detective work of Macbeth's former girlfriend Elspeth, Josie would entrap Macbeth. 

Hamish Macbeth is not the kind of man to make a promise lightly or to go back on a promise lightly.  He would be faced with a lifetime marriage to an alcoholic woman he doesn't love.  

There were times, as I read this book, when I almost gave it up.  It seemed too silly.  But by the end, it didn't seem silly at all.  It seemed incredibly sad.

My father (the MD superintendent of a state mental hospital) worked with many alcoholics.  I know from my growing up what a terrible disease alcoholism can be.  And, in most cases, only if you face alcoholism squarely, can you deal with it--"one day at a time," as it says in The Big Book. 

By the close of this book, I have great respect for the author.  Along the way, I had wondered (though I've read enough M.C. Beaton to know something of what she is about.)

If you like M.C. Beaton (as I often do), you might find this to be one of her most unusual and intriguing books.  


pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved this TV series when we lived in England.

Joe Barone said...

I've read several of these books over the years. He is a single-minded character.